‘Yotes Notes: Free-agent updates and a look at key dates
The Coyotes have taken care of two of their biggest offseason priorities by signing goalie Antti Raanta to a three-year extension before the season ever ended, and agreeing with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson on an eight-year extension that can be signed on July 1. They are close to an agreement on an extension with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, as well, that should be in place by the NHL Draft.
There are a number of other key dates approaching for league executives, however. Let’s take a look at them in relation to the Coyotes.
June 15: First player buyout period
The Coyotes do not plan to exercise any buyouts this season. They still have two more seasons left on the Mike Ribeiro buyout, which will cost them $1.944 million each season. In addition to that buyout, the Coyotes will retain $1.417 million of goalie Mike Smith’s salary for one more season per terms of the trade that sent him to Calgary last summer. Dave Bolland’s $5.5 million cap hit remains on the books for one more season as well, but the Coyotes will use long-term injured reserve once again, thereby gaining 80 percent salary relief. Insurance will cover the rest of the cost.
June 18-19: Salary cap upper/lower limit announcement expected
The cap is expected to be between $78 million and $82 million. The midpoint, $80 million, would represent a $5 million increase from this past season. The Coyotes expect to be around the cap floor again in 2018-19. The floor was $55.4 million in 2017-18.
With 16 players under contract, the Coyotes have a projected cap hit of $52.059 million (including Bolland) per capfriendly.com. If you add Lawson Crouse and Dylan Strome, that adds $1.758 million. Max Domi is a restricted free agent whom the Coyotes would likely tender a qualifying offer if he is still on the roster after the draft. With a few more roster spots to fill, the Coyotes shouldn’t have any trouble getting to the floor.
June 22-23: NHL Draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas
The Coyotes have seven picks in this year’s NHL Draft, including the No. 5 overall pick, a second-round pick, three third-round picks, a sixth-round pick and a seventh-round pick. While there have been reports the Coyotes might be looking to move up in the draft, it is unlikely they will trade the No. 5 pick unless another team blows them away with an unexpectedly good offer. This sort of discussion is simply standard fare before the draft.
June 24: Unrestricted free agents may speak to teams not holding their rights
It is likely that every one of the Coyotes UFAs will take advantage of this period. The Coyotes have four UFAs on the NHL roster: forwards Brad Richardson, Zac Rinaldo and defensemen Kevin Connauton and Luke Schenn.
June 25: Deadline for tendering offers to restricted free agents
The Coyotes have three RFAs listed on their NHL roster: forwards Max Domi, Laurent Dauphin and Freddie Hamilton. If Domi is still on the roster after the draft, the Coyotes would likely tender him an offer. Dauphin adds useful center depth at the NHL and AHL levels. Hamilton isn’t likely to return.
July 1: Free agency begins
Here’s a quick update on the Coyotes’ four UFAs.
Brad Richardson: Richardson’s agent, Mark Guy, said Monday that talks with Coyotes general manager John Chayka continue and neither side has closed the door on a return, but “at this stage he looks to be going to free agency.” The Coyotes clouded Richardson’s future when they traded left wing Jordan Martinook and their fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Marcus Kruger and Carolina’s third-round pick in 2018. Kruger could fill Richarsdon’s fourth-line center spot and penalty-killing duties.
Richardson is coming off a three-year, $6.25 million deal.
Luke Schenn: Schenn’s agent, Ben Hankinson, did not return messages left for him. He is expected to reach the free-agent market.
Schenn is coming off a two-year, $2.5 million deal. It is unlikely the Coyotes would re-sign him in anything other than a depth role. If they lose Connauton, he could be an option at the right price.
Kevin Connauton: Connauton’s agent, Matt Oates, said Monday that he expects to talk to Chayka again this week and then likely at the NHL Draft, but Connauton is expected to reach the free-agent market.
Connauton scored a career-best 11 goals last season, all at even strength, with three of them game-winners. Among NHL defenseman, he finished tied for 21st in goals with San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic, despite finishing 227th in average time on ice at 15:08 with 53.5 percent of his zone starts coming in the defensive zone.
“Opportunity is everything; getting a chance to play is huge,” said Connauton, who will stay in Arizona most of the summer to train with Coyotes Strength and Conditioning Coach J.P. Major.
Connauton is coming off a two-year, $2 million deal. Unless the Coyotes trade one of the top five defensemen they have under contract, Connauton may have priced himself out of their range as a No. 6 defenseman.
Zac Rinaldo: Rinaldo’s agent, Todd Reynolds, declined comment when asked if there was any update on his client. He is expected to reach the free-agent market.
Rinaldo is coming off a one-year, $700,000 contract. He played 53 games last season. His role would likely remain the same as a depth player who provides grit and is in and out of the lineup. A source close to the situation said his chances of returning are about 50/50.
The Coyotes will host their prospect development camp from June 25-29 at Gila River Arena. The camp will feature the team’s 2018 draft picks and top prospects, including 2017 draft selections Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Tyler Steenbergen and Mackenzie Entwistle.
One-ice sessions are scheduled for June 25 from 2 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., June 26 from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and June 28 from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. There will also be an intra-squad game on June 29 at 6 p.m. The practices and game are open to the public and free of charge.
On June 27, the Coyotes will hold community events, such as visits to facilities including Banner Thunderbird Hospital, Ability360, and a Phoenix Fire station; a skate with HopeKids at Gila River Arena; and a teddy bear toss after the scrimmage. The bears will be donated to United Phoenix Firefighters Charities.